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10x 'fast SPICE' speedup promised

Posted: 01 Feb 2005 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:fast spice? simulator? hsim? interconnect? signal integrity?

When the new boss at startup Nascentric Inc. heard of Synopsys Inc.'s pending purchase of Nassda Corp., he decided it was time to tell the world his company is about to jump into the circuit simulation market.

If there's any gap in the "fast SPICE" market left by the Synopsys acquisition, Nascentric will fill it, said Vess Johnson, president and CEO.

Nascentric is going into alpha sites with a circuit simulation tool that Johnson claims is 10 times faster than current fast-Spice simulators, with no trade-off in accuracy. The technology stems from a recent Ph.D. dissertation by Nascentric founder and CTO John Croix, former CTO at Silicon Metrics Corp.

Nascentric will need something really good to break into the IC SPICE market. The latest figures from Gartner Dataquest show that Synopsys will hold 79 percent of that market with the combination of Nassda's HSIM simulator and its own Nanosim.

But Gary Smith, the research organization's chief EDA analyst, thinks there's room for a newcomer. "SPICE users, especially the memory designers, have proved more than willing to switch to the newest, greatest SPICE simulator," he said. "It's an easy market to penetrate if you have a technology advantage."

Johnson says Nascentric does. "The real breakthrough is the way in which we are representing the devices and the interconnect," he said. "We are using a current-based approach, which means our underlying data structures are more circuit-aware. We have the ability to simultaneously analyze multiple nanometer operating effects under a variety of operating conditions."

This technology fits Nascentric's mission: to offer analysis solutions that address the nanometer effects of timing, signal integrity and power.

Synopsys, Cadence Design Systems and Magma Design Automation have all embraced current-based modeling, though they advocate different formats. That discussion, however, has centered on static timing analysis. Nascentric, for its part, is targeting transistor-level analysis of IC layouts. CTO Croix pitched his idea to venture capitalists after finishing his dissertation at the University of Texas in Austin in 2002. The startup won $4.5 million in venture funding from investors including Austin Ventures, Silverton Partners and Needham. Nascentric currently employs 18 people.

Johnson was previously president and CEO of Silicon Metrics, which he sold to Magma in October 2003. "Personally, I'm just more of a startup kind of guy," he said. "I looked at this technology and it seemed compelling."

Johnson said Nascentric's early customers include IDMs, foundries, IP providers and customer-owned tooling companies, but he declined to give any names. Nascentric plans to ship its first product in March.

- Richard Goering

EE Times

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